February 18, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Jamie and Carmen from City Chic Country Mouse

This week we have the privilege of hearing from a creative team. Mother and daughter Carmen and Jamie are the women behind City Chic Country Mouse. They make all kinds of fun and practical items in beautiful fabrics. I wish I had an ironing board just so I could get one of their lovely covers (and maybe also for ease of ironing fabric). It's great to hear about how these ladies became a business and creative team as well as family. Be sure to check out their shop and their blog to see more. 

First, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We are a mom and daughter shop which we named after our nicknames for each other. Carmen (Mom or "Country Mouse") and Jamie (daughter or "City Chic"). We gave each other these names based on where we live and our quirky characteristics due to our geographical locations. For example, City Chic must always drive when Country Mouse visits her in the city (traffic can be scary for a Country Mouse!). We make each other laugh frequently because of our differences.

We specialize in sewn items designed to make your household chores more cheerful, fun and lovely.  From the sewing/craft studio to the laundry and kitchen we enjoy bringing style to these everyday tasks. It all started when Country Mouse handed down a thirty year old Singer sewing machine to City Chic and falling in love with some fabric at a local fabric store. Who knew it would blossom into an unbelievably enjoyable joint venture?!?

Tell us a little bit about your work space.
City Chic and Country Mouse is a team effort, and we are each lucky enough to have our own dedicated sewing space in our homes. City Chic: my space is currently in transition from an upstairs extra bedroom and is moving to the lower level family room (this used to be known as the "man room") see photo, below. I purchased an expedit bookshelf and desk from Ikea (I think every crafter should have a big shelving system to keep organized!). This room is much larger than the bedroom, however I do wish it had a door that I could close when I have a big mess to hide (being creative can be a messy process!).

Country Mouse: my space is a spare bedroom in which we removed the closet rod and installed shelving for fabric (photo below).  My husband found a gorgeous antique library table and a drafting table over which we placed a countertop which works great for my cutting table. A long, narrow Ikea table holds my sewing machine and serger, allowing lots of room for extra large items like quilts. An additional Ikea shelving unit holds more fabric, books, etc. I have great natural sunlight, however there's never enough space, and I keep threatening to knock out a wall to expand into the adjoining bedroom!
What motivates you to create?
We find it's important to make time to get out of the studio and visit exhibits and craft shows when they're in the area. For example, we made the trip to an Apron Exhibit at a local museum when it was in town. A trip to view other creative peoples' work always helps us to refresh. It’s easy to spend all of your time sewing, but getting out and trying new things really does help bring new inspiration to the items you create.

What stalls or inhibits your creative process?
There are lots of distractions when you sew at home. There are dogs and husbands that need attention, meals to cook, and the house always needs cleaning! We try to dedicate about 1 weekend a month to get together and sew with as little distraction as possible. We plan easy meals and prepare as much of our projects ahead of time in order to make the best use of the weekend sewing marathon, as we like to call it.

What or who helps to support your creative work?
We are lucky to be a mother-daughter sewing team and thankful we have each other for support. When one of us gets busy with life, the other one is always ready to step up and take on more of the responsibilities for sewing and running our etsy shop.

Can you tell us about some of the lessons you have learned in the process of making?
Often we have what seems to be a great idea for a new item but after making a first sample discover it's either far too labor intensive or just doesn't rate high enough on our cuteness scale. Over time we've learned when it's best to scrap an idea and move on to something else or continue re-working a design.

Do you have any words of wisdom or suggestions for other creators?
It’s so exciting to dream of earning a living from your creations! There are lots of helpful books on the subject, two of the most recent ones on our shelf are The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin and Creative, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho Here are a few things that work well for us:

Take beautiful pictures: if you sell online, your photo of your creation needs to be bright and clear. Practice taking photos in different rooms to find the best lighting. Try out different props and styling. Edit your photos (we love using Picnik).

Have a variety of income: Don’t depend on just one item that sells well for you. We try to have a cohesive variety in our shop. We also try to do a few craft shows, have a few wholesale customers, and we both still have regular jobs we go to.

Thank you so much for reading our interview and happy creating! 

Don't forget to check out more of the creative process interviews from the past several weeks here. And, as always, I would love to hear any of your thoughts on creating (or other things) in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. It was especially interesting to read about the motivation behind the creations!